High schoolers partner with a nonprofit on junior gardening
FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — Three local high school students have teamed up with a nonprofit organization to provide a way for children to try their hand at a fun, useful activity.
Charolette Tidwell, founder and director of Antioch for Youth and Family in Fort Smith, said the organization was approved by the National Junior Master Gardener Program in February as a Junior Master Gardener group teacher/leader. Crucial to the creation of the Junior Master Gardener program were three seniors from the Future School of Fort Smith: Rosario Arredondo, America Cruz and Andrea Jimenez.
Cruz said the program is for children. From her perspective, there are many children who have not been exposed to gardening at all because of a lack of resources.
“I know from the Hispanic community, a lot of parents like to plant and garden,” Cruz said to the Southwest Times Record. “I know the Asian community, they like to plant and garden, but as people stay here, they tend to kind of lose that, and I know my family doesn’t plant and garden anymore, so it’s kind of bringing it back to the roots of a lot of cultures.”
Giving children the opportunity, Cruz said, not only will provide them with skills and experience, but also the means to grow their own food. This, among other things, will allow them to save money.
Tidwell said Arredondo, Cruz and Jimenez, who had helped in the Antioch Community Garden for some time, came to her with a desire to continue working there. Tidwell had had the goal of a Junior Master Gardener program for a while at that point.
“And so we decided collectively that a Junior Master Gardener program would be a good idea,” Tidwell said.
Tidwell said Arredondo, Cruz and Jimenez completed the online application to have their Junior Master Gardener program established. They all contacted the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, which has its own small program. They learned their program had to have an organization to sponsor it and receive the necessary literature. The three young women will be the instructors for the program under Antioch, and Tidwell will be involved as an adviser. It will be facilitated at the Antioch Community Garden, where local K-12 schools have already been involved. Classes for the program will be held at the Antioch building.
Arredondo, Cruz and Jimenez already have a spring planting schedule prepared for the program, Tidwell said recently, with all the literature having arrived as well. They are now working on getting children into the program, as well as getting an adult advisory council put together. Volunteers, both children and adults, are still needed.
“They’ve already purchased their potatoes,” Tidwell said. “We just can’t get them in the ground with all of this rain.”
Local company Peace Farm Organics is already donating items to the new Junior Master Gardener program, Tidwell said. In addition to potatoes, Cruz and Jimenez said children in the program will be growing other things such as tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, peas, peppers, squash and sweet potatoes. They, along with Arredondo and Tidwell, will soon take part in a field trip to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville to meet with Joyce Mendenhall, who is in charge of the Junior Master Gardener program there.
Tidwell said the new Junior Master Gardener program is set to begin in the middle of April. Twelve students have already signed up.
Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/